The Homecoming

Written by Harold Pinter

Thurs 22nd September - Sat 24th September & Tues 27th September - Sat 1st October 1994

Directed by Neil Kendall

Tensions mount and revelations abound in a cautionary tale of family reunion. Max loves his boys, or does he? Something malignant lurks, hidden in psyche. Soon it will be unleashed. The Butcher's sons have a taste for blood and change. Enter into a shadow world of implied violence and black humour. This brutal masterpiece established its playwright as one of our greatest talents. And now, the Bench Theatre Company invites you to dance with the devil.

AuthorHarold Pinter

Harold Pinter CH. CBE (1930 - 2008)

Harold Pinter is perhaps the best known English playwright since the second world war; and is among the most influential British playwrights of modern time.

He was a child when war broke out and it made a strong and lasting impact on him; he found separation from his parents difficult when he was evacuated from London to Cornwall, and as a young man he was fined a substantial amount for refusing to do his national service.

At school he had read widely - both literature and poetry and particularly the works of Kafka and Hemingway - and acted in productions. He spent two years studying at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, but he never settled there and did not complete his course. He earned his living as an actor for some years before starting to write plays himself. His first play to be commercially successful was 'The Caretaker' in 1960 which, although critical reaction was mixed; Pinter's style was already distinctive, and not always popular with the critics. After becoming established as a writer, he went on to direct widely, serving under Peter Hall as associate director of the National Theatre. As well as the stage, Pinter has written extensively for British television and radio, and as a screenwriter of feature-films, and he has also directed for all of these media.

His plays often feature a sense of impending danger with the characters frequently under threat from people or forces they (and the audience) cannot understand or control. This menace and implied violence is more palatable to audiences because it is interleaved with often-unexpected humour. Although many of his plays are set in a single room or space, they often contain strong visual imagery.

His 1965 play 'The Homecoming' won a Tony Award, the Whitbread Anglo-American Theatre Award, and the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award. These were followed by many others across all areas of his work, including the Berlin Film Festival Silver Bear, the Austrian State Prize for European Literature, BAFTA awards in 1965 and in 1971, the Hamburg Shakespeare Prize, the Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or in 1971, and the Commonwealth Award in 1981. He was awarded a CBE in 1966, but later turned down a knighthood. In 1996 he was given the Laurence Olivier Award for a lifetime's achievement in the theatre. In 2002 he was made a Companion of Honour for services to literature and in 2005 won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

PlayThe Homecoming

'The Homecoming' was first published in 1965 and premiered in a production by the Royal Shakespeare Company, directed by Peter Hall. The original Broadway production won the 1967 Tony Award for Best Play and its 40th-anniversary Broadway production at the Cort Theatre was nominated for a 2008 Tony Award for "Best Revival of a Play".

Set in an old house in North London, the play features brothers Max - a retired butcher and Sam - a chauffeur, Max's three sons, Joey, Lenny and Teddy and Teddy's wife Ruth and is centred around Teddy and Ruth's homecoming. After having lived in the United States for several years, Teddy - an academic - brings Ruth home for the first time to meet his working-class family. Unfortunately she finds the company and surroundings more familiar than their arid academic life in America. Much sexual tension occurs as Ruth teases Teddy's brothers and father and the men taunt one another in an game of one-upmanship. The results of the visit change their lives for ever.

The Bench Production

The Homecoming poster image

This play was staged at Havant Arts Centre, East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977.


LennyNeil Kendall
MaxDavid Penrose
SamPete Woodward
JoeyTony Ford
RuthSally Hartley
TeddyAlan Jenkins


Director Neil Kendall
Stage Manager Lindy Nettleton
Assistant Stage Manager Andrew Ingle
Lighting Operation Andrew Ingle
Sound Jude Salmon
Poster Peter Woodward
Front of House Sally Hartley

Director's Notes

Bench Theatre is in its twenty-fifth season, bringing you a wide range of classical and contemporary theatre. Following on from 'Oedipus Rex', The Dresser' and 'Habeas Corpus' we now offer a new interpretation of Pinter's brutal masterpiece, 'The Homecoming'.

New members and old make up the cast of the play which established Pinter as one of our greatest talents. Max loves his boys, or does he? The Butcher's sons have a taste for blood and change. Tensions will mount and revelations abound in this cautionary tale of family reunion.

Neil Kendall


The NewsNeil Pugmire

Striking home with a Pinter masterpiece

Love him or loathe him, one thing that can be guaranteed in any Harold Pinter play is finely-chiselled dialogue interspersed with plenty of meaningful pauses. The Homecoming, widely regarded as one of his masterpieces, doesn't disappoint in this respect.

Each carefully-constructed sentence and poignant glance seems capable of being interpreted in a dozen different ways as the tension of a family reunion builds to its climax. The relationships between butcher Max, his brother and three sons are thrown into turmoil when Teddy brings his wife, Ruth, to see them after six years away. She becomes the focus through which the certainties of their old family roles are released by deep-seated insecurities. The conversation rarely strays from the minutiae of the domestic life throughout, but the meanings are communicated in subtler ways.

Director Neil Kendall uses a bare stage, apart from Max's paternal armchair on a platform. Inevitably it forms the pedestal from which Max is eventually toppled at the head of the family's hierarchical structure.

Sally Hartley is wonderfully manipulative as Ruth, using all her womanly wiles to the full, while Alan Jenkins's Teddy is so uncomfortable, the audience is left squirming with embarrassment. Davis Penrose is top class, fitting easily into the slippers and cardigan of a very Jewish Max, and Peter Woodward's Sam is a well-observed Cockney chauffeur.

But while Neil Kendall's direction is spot-on, if anything his character, would-be manipulator Lenny, has too much intensity combined with slack-jawed stares. With this cast and author, the audience doesn't need to be reminded that every phrase has added significance.

The News, 26th September 1994

Production Photographs